When people learn that I work at a PR firm in DC, I often get asked if my job is like the TV show Scandal.

While crisis management is certainly a component of public relations, it’s not everything. Still, it does seem that most of the exposure companies generate is during times of crises. All it takes is one major scandal, be it a data breach or run-in with the law for people to comment, “Oh XYZ really needs some good PR these days.” But, in reality, it’s the everyday work of PR firms that lays the foundation for companies and helps reinforce brands when they do combat a crisis. Here’s an inside look at some of this foundational work and the associated myths.

  • Media Relations – A major component of PR is generating awareness of a client’s brand through the media. Drafting and pitching press releases around relevant client news is just one part of that. Coordinating interviews and preparing clients to talk with reporters is another. PR firms pitch stories to appropriate reporters, but, just as often, those reporters come to us asking for insight around a particular topic or story that only our clients can offer. Establishing a good rapport with reporters covering our clients’ industries and even having go-to reporters is a big part of a successful PR firm.  
  • Research and Writing – Outside of always being in the midst of a crisis, the next assumption I get from people about working in PR is that my job is all about interacting with media. What often surprises people is that there is a lot of writing and research that goes on behind the scenes. There is always a plethora of content to be drafted and edited, whether it is bylines or blogs. And, in today’s age of social media, we generate a lot of content for Facebook and Twitter (FYI, condensing down to 140 characters can be quite challenging). Good research skills are also vital. All good PR is research-based, particularly when it comes to unearthing the perfect reporter or outlet to contact for a niche story, or identifying relevant speaking opportunities and awards for clients to consider. 
  • Events – Another common misconception is that PR is about high-profile event planning. PR firms do plan and host events to promote the work of clients and provide support and coordination for client-run events. But oftentimes, the primary role that PR firms play is working behind the scenes to generate media awareness and coverage for the event rather than working on the minute details of planning. Contrary to what Hollywood portrays, PR execs are not the ones holding the list at the door to an exclusive party, deciding who gets in.
  • Publicity – That brings me to another myth; not all PR centers around celebrities, entertainment, and sports marketing. Although every celebrity has a publicist to call on to help manage their image, that is a different responsibility from what a typical PR professional undertakes. For the business world, PR is more about promoting a brand rather than an individual.
  • Crisis – Crisis management is, of course, part of PR work, but even this is not always as exciting as shown on TV. Nobody wishes for a crisis to occur, but they unfortunately do, often with little or no warning. And all crises are different, so there is no one magic formula for handling them. Because of that, planning is the biggest part of crisis management. The good PR firms work very closely with clients in advance of a crisis to develop a response plan and establish messaging and strategies. In addition, media monitoring for any breaking news or signs of trouble is important, but this is already part of the daily tasks at a PR firm.

So while not every day is like Scandal, PR is vital for businesses and exhilarating for those of us lucky enough to call it our profession. While we do thrive on successfully navigating a crisis, we also take pride in the foundational work that goes into every client we serve, helping us tell their stories to the audiences that matter most.


When you say you work in PR, what misconceptions do people have? Leave a comment below, or tweet us at @RHStrategic with the hashtag #RHetoricBlog.

RH Strategic is the PR firm for a hyper-connected world, delivering integrated media, social & digital strategies for technology, healthcare, and public sector markets.